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24-year-old Khari Lucas, aka Contour, is a South Carolina-based artist, producer, and DJ, and one of eight musicians chosen for this year’s NTS WIP artist development program. His bandcamp displays an impressive body of work, which was recorded over a period of a year and a half, flitting between jazz, soul, and psych-rock. Calling in from Nashville while on a mini 3-date tour, Khari discusses his hometown, inspirations, and what the past year has been like for him. 

What’s it like growing up in South Carolina?

Kind of weird! From an artistic standpoint, culture here is really archaic and backwards. You have to be super motivated if you want to be involved with anything that is atypical. There's not a whole lot to do besides go to shows and people's houses to drink and party. I got heavily sucked into that in my teenage years, but once I started taking music seriously, I chilled out. 

How did you get into music?

I was always involved in it in some way. My mom had me doing musical theater. I went to an art school, so I was learning a lot of choral music. My friends introduced me to alternative genres of indie rock, club music, and forms of electronic music. From there, I developed my taste and started making things myself, eventually. 

How has South Carolina impacted your music?

It's weird, because South Carolina has a very rich jazz and soul tradition, but I only know about it from research, and because I was gifted a book that was an encyclopedia of artists from here. If it weren’t for that, I don't think I would know. Maybe in a spiritual way, I’m influenced by my ancestors, but I don't know about “directly.” Also, by way of not having a lot of stuff to do, I had a lot of time on my hands, so my music would probably be different if I’d lived somewhere like New York, or any big city, where I would have been constantly exposed to things. Maybe, it had a non-effect. 

What is your creative process?

It's very research- and practice-based. Music is my go-to activity. When I come home, I'll be playing around in Ableton or digging for music, listening and sampling. I'm at my most effective when I’m at home working on a project. To motivate myself, I'll do research. Once I've inspired myself, I just go at it and try not to think too hard about what it is I'm doing. I don't do a lot of editing. If I have to come back to something, I don't finish it. 

What’s your next project?

I have an album that I finished in January and I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with it. I actually finished it even before the album that I released in March. The record I released in March consists of a few live recorded tracks with my band and a few self-produced things. My next project is all self-produced, and should be the next step forward, sonically, in my musical journey.

What has been the highlight of the past year for you?

My trip to Europe. It was a perfect balance. I had one week of doing scheduled things in London, like filming the music video for “New Garden.” Then, when I went to Italy, I had ten days to just develop my practice. It was a perfect taste of what my ideal artist life would be like – switching between career commitments and being tucked away in a beautiful, remote location making stuff. 

Originally presented as part of WIP magazine issue 04, available at select Carhartt WIP stores.

Words: Niloufar Haidari
Image: Tayo Rapoport – Child Studio